Next book

FANNY

A brilliantly structured, wonderfully engaging tragicomedy of historic and panoramic yet human proportions.

Novelist and memoirist White (The Flâneur, 2001, etc.) obviously had a ball playing within the double framework of this purported biography-gone-astray of Victorian radical Fanny Wright by hack novelist and travel writer Frances Trollope, Anthony’s mother.

White’s conceit is that an aging Frances, who made her literary debut 30 years earlier with a diatribe against America after a four-year visit, decides to tell the story of her more famous friend Fanny, but Frances’s self-absorption causes her to stray more and more into her own life story. The two women meet in the 1820s. Fanny, an heiress without the practical concerns that plague Frances, whose family is nearing financial ruin, is a freethinking feminist/atheist who makes Frances “feel worthy as a mind and attractive as a person.” While desperately pragmatic Frances muddles through one family crisis after another, Fanny, drawn to powerful older men, becomes involved with Lafayette and follows him to America. Their relationship falters, but she becomes enamored with the aged Jefferson and then with Scottish philanthropist Robert Owen, founder of the utopian community New Harmony in Indiana. Fanny founds her own utopia, Nashoba, near Memphis, planning to educate slaves to prepare them for emancipation before transporting them to the independent black nation of Haiti. In 1827, under Fanny’s charismatic spell, Frances drags her daughters and youngest son Henry to America hoping for a new start. Nashoba turns out to be a disaster—disorganized and unconsciously cruel; the semi-freed slaves are starving—and the Trollopes are plunged into deeper financial distress. Meanwhile, Fanny goes blithely on, unaware she’s destroying lives in the pursuit of her ideals. Frances has little use for Fanny’s abstractions but a real feel for actual people as exemplified in her wonderfully unexpected (and totally fictional) love affair with the runaway slave who lives next door. As she loses her genteel reticence, Frances begins to pack a real wallop as narrator and character.

A brilliantly structured, wonderfully engaging tragicomedy of historic and panoramic yet human proportions.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-000484-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

Categories:
Next book

THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

Next book

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Close Quickview